MEL RAMOSLola Cola
- Mel Ramos
- Lola Cola
- signed, titled and dated 1966 on the reverse
- oil on canvas with metal sign
Modernism, San Francisco
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1985
The Oakland Museum, Ramos: A Retrospective Survey, September - November 1977, cat. no. 29
Napa, di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, July 1985 - December 2017
Following his explosive emergence onto the Pop Art scene in the early 1960s, Mel Ramos created a unique aesthetic which simultaneously paid tribute to his European predecessors and contemporary culture by re-positioning the role of the female nude within a Surrealist Pop context. Billboard imagery, advertising themes, add-mass nudes and the emblematic depiction of products were all subjects of fascination for Ramos and his 1960’s contemporaries, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
Like his fellow American Pop artists who found motifs for their work within mass media imagery, Mel Ramos carved out a prolific legacy by parodying idealized nude women that engulfed American society in the early 1960's issues of Playboy, comic books, celebrity culture and mass advertising against the backdrop of widely recognizable commercial products. The present work is an exceptional example of the fascinating Surrealist infusion of product and person, collapsing into a singularly tantalizing object of desire and consumption. As playfully demonstrated in Lola Cola, our nude female heroine oozes a confident air of sexuality by casually resting her elbows above a Coca-Cola sign that serves a dual comical purpose of modestly obscuring her naked lower torso from view while also acting as a prop for our vixen to clasp her hands together inquisitively above her exposed breasts, directly engaging the viewer in an absurd conjunction.
This undeniable mixture of humor and eroticism found across the sweeping canvas of Lola Cola indicates the maturity of Ramos' most prized subject: the erotic female heroine. Having discovered early success in his comic book inspired paintings, Ramos developed his own personal Pop Art aesthetic through creative use of paint application and treatment of the female form. Not unlike Lichtenstein and Warhol who also used comics or "low" art as their source of inspiration, Ramos' paintings differed by not attempting to imitate the comic book aesthetic with benday pattern dots or the silkscreen process. Instead, the distinctively luminous impasto emphasized by the idealized painted image was heavily influenced by his teacher and mentor, Wayne Thiebaud - who Europeanized this California based painter through the emphasis of creating light and movement via paint application. Painted in 1967, Lola Cola's popsicle-colored canvas is thus a sophisticated example of the technical mastery of brushwork against a beautifully shaped canvas.
Ramos' ingenious integration of supermarket goods amongst his refined painterly techniques enable the present work to mirror the eruption of mass media and advertising imagery American Pop art in the mid-1960s. Ramos directly imports the language of advertising, which extends Freudian symbolism to even the most banal of objects, chosen by Ramos to represent and exude suggestiveness. Lola Cola renders the glamour girl with overpowering physicality and at the same time, her glamour is subverted through her pairing with a consumer product that has equal power and sex appeal. Providing viewer's with a difficult choice: the sweet bubbling carbonation of Coca-Cola and the sultry brunette bombshell are both ready to melt in one's mouth. Ramos' Lola Cola effectively symbolizes consumability via the oral fixation of the female heroine as propaganda for an instantly gratifying product. Altogether, by exposing the material desires of post-war consumerism through the humanization of products, Ramos thoughtfully examines the nature of eroticism on a highly personal as well as a universal level.